Both men and women experience mental health issues. However, the way they respond is often very different. Men are less likely to seek help and more likely to downplay their symptoms than women. They are also five times more likely to suffer from alcohol abuse and dependency.
The good news is that men have become more open to asking for help when needed over the last ten years. A survey by MIND found that men are equally as likely to see their GP as women if they are feeling low and are three times more likely to see a therapist than in 2009.
This progress is positive, although there is still some way to go. More research is needed to find effective ways to support men’s mental health and reduce the risk of premature mortality for men who are seriously struggling.
3 out of 4 suicides are by men, with men aged 40-49 having the highest suicide rates in the UK. The reasons for this are varied and challenging to identify fully.
We need to find a solution, which is why MQ is supporting research into suicide prevention, such as the HOPES project, which aims to develop a model to predict who is at risk of suicide by analysing brain scans and data to identify universal risk factors.
Dr Aideen Maguire and his team from Queen’s University, Belfast, are investigating whether having access to a gun increases suicide risk. This has been proven in the US, but in the UK – where laws and culture differ considerably – no research has ever been carried out to understand if this could be the same. Aideen’s innovative study has the potential to support vital new ways to prevent the tragedy of suicide.
You can read more about MQ’s work to prevent suicides here.
Physical and mental health
People with serious mental illnesses pass away on average 15 years earlier than the general population. This is not just due to suicide but also because of co-morbidities between physical and mental health conditions.
For example, heart disease is the leading cause of death in men, and people with heart disease are more likely to suffer from depression, with the opposite also being true.
MQ also supports research by Dr Golam Khandaker at Cambridge University, who is looking into the links between depression and heart disease. Golam’s team has already identified inflammation as a link and is now testing whether an anti-inflammatory treatment could be used for depression.
A barrier for some men to access therapies is the idea of discussing their emotions with someone. Whilst many men will receive and benefit from talking therapies such as CBT, for many, there is still a stigma associated with discussing their mental health, which prevents them from asking for help.
In a survey carried out by Mind, 22% of men said they would be more likely to seek information and support online, whilst 15% said they would be more likely to seek help if they could remain anonymous.
The use of digital technologies could be the answer for anyone, male or female, who is uncomfortable talking face to face or who otherwise struggles to access help.
MQ Researcher Professor Colette Hirsch from King’s College London has developed a new evidence-based intervention for anxiety and depression, which uses Cognitive Bias Modification for Interpretation (CBT-I) delivered in accessible short sessions. With MQ’s help, Colette is now looking at ways this treatment can be delivered via a mobile app.
MQ researcher Dr Jen Wild from Oxford University is also using innovative ways to provide interventions for PTSD through her SHAPE recovery programme. This intervention is specifically designed to treat PTSD symptoms in healthcare workers and has had a 90% success rate in reducing symptoms in early trials. Now this intervention, which is delivered by telephone and on a flexible schedule, is being trailed on both sides of the globe by the London Ambulance Service as well as in Sydney, Australia.
With your help, we can do more
If you would like to support the work of MQ, there are many ways you can do this. You can participate in research by volunteering for a study or take on a fundraising challenge such as running 10k or skydiving.
By supporting MQ Mental Health research, you can help to understand better the mental health challenges faced by both men and women, find effective ways of treating them and ultimately one day prevent them altogether. #WithoutResearchItsJustGuesswork